Olympic Preview: Argentina - Brazil

What: Olympic Games Semi-Final
Who: Argentina vs Brazil
When: 19 August 2008, 21:00 China Standard Time
Where: Beijing Workers' Stadium, Beijing

Two of football's biggest global names meet in the Chinese capital to determine who faces Nigeria or Belgium in the final of the 2008 Games...

Brazilian Hopes

Brazil, having never won the tournament, have a great deal to prove. For all their legacy at the Copa America and of course the World Cup, the Gold Medal eludes them.

Furthermore not since the 1990s have they even "medalled" - a bronze at Atlanta in '96 - and one must go all the way back to Seoul '88 and Los Angeles '84 to see silver.

This time around coach Dunga wants it to be different, and he's single-mindedly in pursuit of that goal. The manager, unpopular with many back in Brazil, has gone so far as to publicly comment on his squad's deficiencies, not least those of Pato. As he said today, "I brought on Rafael Sobis because he knows how to deal with tight marking, can open up the spaces and does not go offside. Pato must grow again, and he must learn to free himself from his marker."

Thus Sobis of Betis could find himself thrust into the limelight in time for Tuesday's glamour tie - a second consecutive start. He'll be joined by the likes of Hernanes, Diego, and of course captain Ronaldinho. From the midfield upwards this is an impressive-looking Brazilian squad on paper, no doubt about it.

Yet perhaps surprisingly the defence, bereft of some of its key senior players, has been excellent. A back line of Rafinha, Alex or Thiago Silva, Breno, and Marcelo has kept things tight, while Renan Brito - now signed for Valencia - has been impressive in goal. Such as it is Brazil have yet to concede at all at the Games.

Argentine Dreams

Yet if there's one team that could slice this side open it's Argentina.

Arguably in possession of the strongest squad at the tournament, whether or not the albiceleste have truly hit stride yet is open to debate. Having conceded twice, their 'goals for' tally is also far less impressive than that of Brazil.

Then again some may say that the Ivory Coast, Australia and Serbia were tougher groupmates than China, New Zealand and (semi-finalists) Belgium, while the Dutch were no pushovers in the quarters.

As such it's far from panic stations for Sergio Batista's men, although he has more than a few concerns to deal with. Sergio Romero will start in goal due to 'Osky' Ustari's horror injury, while how to arrange his midfield and attack will no doubt keep him up at night.

Countering Brazil's 4-2-2-2 could be difficult. Against Serbia Zabaleta and Di Maria played something of an advanced wing-back role with two behind them and Mascherano in support; this could be tried again. More likely, though, is a 4-2-3-1 that would see Fernando Gago of Real Madrid join up with Marscherano, Messi in something of a free role on the right, captain Riquelme supporting Sergio Agüero, and Di Maria on the left.

Regardless of the line-up the pressure is on: Brazil may be facing their first "real" test but a battered and bruised Argentina must now prove that they have what it takes to scale another.


Argentina (at the Games)

07 Aug 08 Ivory Coast WON 2-1
10 Aug 08 Australia WON 1-0
13 Aug 08 Serbia WON 2-0
16 Aug 08 Netherlands WON 2-1

Brazil (at the Games)

07 Aug 08 Belgium WON 1-0
10 Aug 08 New Zealand WON 5-0
13 Aug 08 China PR WON 3-0
16 Aug 08 Cameroon WON 2-0



Goalkeeper Oscar Ustari is out for eight months after falling injured against the Dutch, while Nicolas Pareja is suspended. Agüero is likely to lead the line, but if a 4-4-2 is plumped for then expect to see Lavezzi take part as well. Mascherano, Gago and Riquelme should form the team's spine.

Probable line-up: Romero; Zabaleta, Fazio, Garay, Monzón; Mascherano, Gago; Messi, Riquelme (c), Di Maria; Agüero.


Coach Dunga will most likely drop Alexandre Pato, who he has deemed unready for this level of competition. With no injury or suspension worries to speak of it all comes down to tactics, and a dual-forward arrangement with either Sobis or Jô joining captain Ronaldinho seems to be the most likely scenario. Diego and Anderson, having started against Cameroon, may team up once more, while the defence should go unchanged from the past game.

Probable line-up: Renan; Rafinha, Alex Silva, Breno, Marcelo; Hernanes, Lucas; Diego, Anderson; Sobis, Ronaldinho (c).


Argentina - Lionel Messi: The mercurial hitman has two goals to his name, as does Lavezzi, but it is with him that the hope of beating the full-backs lies. It would be wrong to describe him as unpredictable, but the great thing about Messi is that even though his gameplan seldom varies too much it's still stunning to watch him pull it off. Also worth a look is Pablo Zabaleta, who without Pareja at his side will be charged with tracking Ronaldinho. The two used to share a city, of course: Zabaleta plays for Barcelona's rivals, Espanyol.

Brazil - Ronaldinho: The captain is in more buoyant mood than he has been in months, if not years. With the chance to start afresh at AC Milan upon him, he'll hope for another piece of silverware - or gold-ware, if you will - with which to cap a productive summer. As Hernanes cheekily put it to Deutsche-Presse, "They will have Maradona in the VIP box, but we have Ronaldinho on the field." Also Lucas has been an ever-present in midfield and has the unenviable task of going up against Juan Román Riquelme.


The loss of a defender and the number one goalkeeper may see Argentina's back line wobble a bit, and with Brazil having yet to concede it seems to me that the Seleção could open the scoring. The albiceleste will fight back toe nsure that this isn't a repeat of the Copa America hammering, but nonetheless I see the Brazilians as ever so slightly too strong for their eternal rivals.

Brazil 2-1 Argentina (AET)

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Olympic Preview: Argentina - Brazil Reviewed by admin Ucop on 4:33 PM Rating: 5

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